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28               A SEARCH IN SECRET EGYPT
before their ill-fated continent sank to the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean, a catastrophe which had drained the Sahara and turned it into a desert. The shells which to-day litter the surface of the Sahara in places, as well as the fossil fish which are found among its sands, prove that it was once covered by the waters of a vast ocean.
It was a tremendous and astonishing thought that the Sphinx provided a solid, visible and enduring link between the people of to-day and the people of a lost world, the unknown Atlanteans. This great symbol has lost its meaning for the modern world, for whom it is now but an object of local curiosity. What did it mean to the Atlanteans ?
We must look for some hint of an answer in the few remnants of culture still surviving from peoples whose own histories claimed Atlantean origin. We must probe behind the degenerate rituals of races like the Incas and the Mayas, mounting to the purer worship of their distant ancestors, and we shall find that the loftiest object of their worship was Light, represented by the Sun. Hence they built pyramidal Temples of the Sun throughout ancient America. Such temples were either variants or slightly distorted copies of similar temples which had existed in Atlantis.
After Plato went to Egypt and settled for a while in the ancient School of Heliopolis, where he lived and studied during thirteen years, the priest-teachers, usually very guarded with foreigners, favoured the earnest young Greek enquirer with information drawn from their well-preserved secret records. Among other things they told him that a great flat-topped pyramid had stood in the centre of the island or Atlantis, and that on this top there had been built the chief temple of the continent—a sun temple.
The emigrants who sailed to Egypt took this religion with them and constructed similar temples; in the giant sloping pylons and in the pyramidal tombs of Egypt we may read to-day the characters of this Atlantean legacy. And ever the Sun found a first place among Egyptian gods.
One thing more these emigrants carried across the seas and that was the taste for gigantic statuary, the predilection for stone giants. Just as in the ruined, Atlantean-descended temples of Mexico, of Peru, and of Yucatan, massive as they are, built of stone blocks of immense size and with finely fitting joints, one can see the sister style of architecture to the Egyptian,